As promised the Prime minister outlined the Government’s leaving lockdown roadmap on Monday. I hope, like me you see it as a realistic map to get back to some sense of normality.
I am happy with the cautious approach and that decisions will be based on the data, not some arbitrary date. And given it takes around four weeks for any anti-COVD measures to take effect, plus a week to prepare for any further relaxation of restrictions we have to accept, it is likely there will be at least five weeks between each of the four steps out of lockdown.
The first step gives us the challenge of helping our schools to prepare to welcome back all primary school aged children from on 8 March, with a phased approach for secondary schools.
Although we need to remember schools have not been closed over the lockdown. They have been busy teaching the children of critical workers and vulnerable children, and providing online home learning too.
However, a full-scale return to welcoming all students back will require a great deal of work on issues such as testing regimes and making sure secondary school pupils wear face coverings in classrooms and shared spaces like corridors.
I know officers in our Children’s Services have been having those conversations with school leaders and unions for a while now, but the pace has increased now we have a definitive date.
Also from 8 March one nominated person will be able to visit loved ones in care homes. That person can visit a relative or friend but they will need PPE, a lateral flow test and will have to keep physical contact to a minimum. I am sure many residents and families will welcome this opportunity to meet up even in this limited manner.
From 29 March, if the data allows, there will be a welcome return to seeing more than one other person outdoors as the rule of six will be back. We could also see the reopening of outdoor sports facilities such as tennis or basketball courts and organised adult and children's sport, for example grassroots football
If the road map is successful, from 12 April we could see some major parts of the economy allowed to reopen, including non-essential retail, hairdressers, public buildings like libraries and museums, beer gardens, zoos, theme parks and indoor leisure like swimming pools and gyms.
By the middle of June, the road map offers an almost complete absence of restrictions that have guided our lives for the last year.
However, this will only be possible if we keep doing the right things; take up the vaccines when offered, continue to follow the rule of hands, face and space; self-isolate and test if we get COVID symptoms.
We have a clear plan and a simple road map to guide us back to our former lives, but it will still require effort from everyone to see us to journey’s end.
With the road map’s milestones in mind I will be spearheading a renewed campaign with partners to offer support to our businesses. We need to ensure we can get people back out shopping and enjoying what businesses have to offer. The focus will be on reassuring people that our centres and businesses are safe, as we will need to maintain some anti-COVID measures for some time to come.
Finally, I’d like to congratulate those in our community going the extra mile to help others. It has been one of the few bright spots in the pandemic to see communities come together for mutual support.
A recent example has been the Solihull & District Hebrew Congregation (SDHC). We awarded them just over £10, 000 from our Essential Food Grant to help support local families by providing hot meals for vulnerable residents during the pandemic. On average they deliver 90 meals a week, which means a number of residents receive some much needed social interaction in addition to a nutritious meal.
SDHC is one of six organisations in Solihull to be awarded money from the scheme as part of a wider support package from the Government. Well done!
Please get vaccinated when it’s offered and keep doing the right thing for you, your family and friends, and Solihull.
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council